Film & TV

Oscar Winner "Undefeated" Employs All the Old Sports Cliches

An inspirational sports tearjerker in distilled form, this doc lands in North Memphis, where the underfunded, all-black Manassas High School football team sucks wind so bad, they're a state joke. Enter white volunteer coach Bill Courtney and a handful of walking clichés on his roster (the straight-outta-juvie hard case, the 300-pound refrigerator struggling with grades, the good-hearted star tragically felled by torn ligaments) and you're ready for cheers and hugs and big-man tears all the way to the playoffs — and an Oscar win for Best Documentary. Strangely, the Manassas Tigers are not at all undefeated during their ostensible championship season, which is a shame for the film. Have you had enough of even true stories about white people rescuing black communities? Honestly, Courtney and his crew all seem like nice people, but if there's an unironic audience for this kind of romantic jock-cup fondling, I'm not interested in knowing it.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Atkinson is a regular film contributor at the Village Voice. His work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.